Litty Talks to Chefs: Laurent Quenioux, Bistro LQ
by Litty Mathew
Confession: I’m a cooking school dropout.
Almost two decades ago, I attended cooking school in France. Sounds romantic? Well, I found out pretty quickly that I was better fit on the other side of the table. But my love of cooking and my curiosity for delicious and interesting ingredients influences what I do at Greenbar Distillery. It’s why Greenbar Distillery spirits go so well with food.
Because of my experience, I’m drawn to chefs. (We love what we can’t be.) I adore asking them all sorts of things. Not just about vittles but how they see the world. Who their best friend is. What brand of dish soap they use…so I thought I’d share some of my conversations with food people.
Recently, I caught up with Laurent Quenioux, one of Los Angeles’ best French chefs. He’s had a long and varied career in the city. From opening the award-winning 7th Street Bistro (back in the day) to being executive chef at Dodger Stadium (yup, that’s a thing) to his current passion project, LQ “Foodings” (such a fun evening). If you haven’t had Chef Laurent’s cassoulet, put it on your list. Toute suite.
Here’s an edited excerpt from our casual chat:
Litty Mathew: Why do you want to feed people?
Laurent Quenioux: I think it’s to share my knowledge of beautiful ingredients with folks who might not have a daily exposure to the fun, fresh things I come across. I love coming across interesting ingredients and using them in my cooking.
LM: And why is that “sharing” important to you?
LQ: In this sense, we democratize the dining experience. To make it more available to people who are interested and not just the elite.
LM: How do you describe your style of cooking?
LQ: I’d say it’s very spontaneous. I cook what’s available at the market and at the local farms. If we can get our hands on it, I’ll try to use it in a dish. I pay attention to the seasons here but also in other parts of the world. I really like working with young producers. They provide such interesting ingredients. Argan oil from Morocco…
LM: (Interrupting). I thought that was just for the hair.
LQ: …Special peppers from Spain. I like the spirits you make…
LM: You don’t have to say that…but do go on…
LQ: You’re bringing life to something commercial. Alcohol used to be more about lifestyle and entertaining. You’re changing the boundaries of what is acceptable at the dining room. It’s exciting.
LM: Who comes to one of your LQ “Fooding” dinners?
LQ: People who are adventurous and interested in challenging their palates. People are seeking something new but it still has to be healthy.
LM: Speaking of healthy, you have a pretty nice garden in the back. What are you growing?
LQ: Oh, we planted all kinds of chiles and peppers. So many tomatoes! You know, we’ll be serving six courses of tomatoes later in the year. Some eggplant. Lots of herbs.
LM: If you could be an ingredient, what would it be?
LQ: A vinegar.
LM: Wow. You offered that answer pretty quickly!
LQ: A homemade vinegar. It’s one of my favorite secret ingredients. A few couple of drops of acidity make so many dishes shine. I like the shine.
LM: You’re collaborating with Greenbar Distillery on a series of cocktail pairing dinners. How are these pairing different than a traditional wine pairing dinner?
LQ: It’s a bit more edgy to pair with cocktails. Wine pairings are easy for me. Spirits and cocktails are challenging, which make it fun.
LM: I know your cooking. I think your sense of adventure and sixth sense for ingredients will charm the crowd.